Nothing reeks of maturity and sophistication quite like dropping the words “my tailor” into casual conversation. I didn’t always think this way, however. Having always erred on the side of thrifting and grunge, I often embraced an awkward fit, and it wasn’t until I acquired my first pair of fancy fashion pants that I even entertained the idea of visiting one (at 6’1”, I rarely need things hemmed). It was then that I consulted my cousin Alex, a Savile Row acolyte, who prised open his little black book and slid the magic address across the table (he actually texted me, but I feel it’s important to retain the glamour of this narrative).
Thus began a long and fruitful relationship with my Marylebone maestro. This voyage of adventure has seamlessly accommodated both my love of fashion and my taste for variety and my body’s tendency to change in size every so often. (It also bears mentioning that tailoring is a valuable option for the sustainability-minded among us who are looking to get more use out of what we already own.)
Below, I’ll walk you through a short chronology of some of my most successful tailoring projects, including the lessons and wardrobe opportunities each of them presented.
Tailoring doesn’t have to be a one-way street. (Some things can be done, and then undone.)
I used to model, and I’d dreamed of these Ellery flares for months before I was gifted them after working with the brand. These were the in-n-out burger of my tailoring career: I took them in across the hips during my early twenties working in Paris, then took them back out in my late twenties after I’d quit modeling and learned that Paris is also home to some damn fine cheese and wine.
Only bring unique, patterned clothing to a tailor you know and trust.
The key to a job like this is as follows: First, with such a specific shape and flare, it’s vital that they’re taken in without losing the spirit of the design (which is why it’s worth finding someone you really trust). Second, with patterns and stripes, the hallmark of a good tailor is one who maintains symmetry; working in line with the pattern and not leaving any broken bits of stripe. If you’re trying out a new tailor, I’d recommend starting with something more straightforward. Think of it like Tinder for tailors—you wouldn’t wear your wedding dress on the first date.
Right cut, wrong size? Bring it to a tailor.
I recently began my first Full-Time Job, after a period of free
wheelinglancing. One day, I stopped by my favorite consignment store to shop for my new Working Wardrobe, and I found these beautiful Chloé suit pants, sadly a size too big. Nothing my man couldn’t fix—resizing the entire pants by removing the difference of one dress size all over. Another thing to note with suit pants: The good ones come unhemmed, leaving it up to you to shorten the leg as you please. Here, the ankle cuff is key. A hemline not only depends on your leg length, but also what shoes you wear, how you like your pants to fall, and whether (as in my case) you’re a salacious Victorian woman titillating passers by with her willfully exposed ankles. (I wore socks in the photo for modesty’s sake.)
It’s helpful to know exactly what #mood you’re after.
My ex-boyfriend dressed exactly like Serge Gainsbourg, so I purchased these vintage 70s flares to follow suit, getting them tailored to meet the specifications of my Jane Birkin fantasy look: snug on the butt with a healthy retro flare. We’re no longer together, but the jeans and I are still going strong. Again, notice how the lines on the jeans still follow the line of the design. Jane would definitely approve.
A tailor can elevate your froggiest into your fanciest.
You may recognize this suit from a previous appearance on Man Repeller. Purchased from Topshop on the occasion of my grandmother’s 90th, I chose it because my gran: a) loves frogs and b) says that my clothes always make her laugh. Aiming to fulfill both specifications, I purchased the suit, despite a slightly poor fit on the pants. With an unflattering saddle-bag-esque cut around the thighs, I had my tailor neaten the upper part of the legs, transforming them into made-to-measure amphibian couture.
“Unfaithful” is a Rihanna song, not tailoring advice.
There comes a time in every long-term relationship where you feel like you might be able to do better by shopping elsewhere. Tired of traipsing across London, I cheated and used my local dry cleaners’ alterations to fix up these vintage pants. The idea was to loosen the waistband and make them more brie-thable, but the high-waisted cut got lost and they now sit rather limply on the hips. Not hugely noticeable, but also not a mistake my regular would have made.
No job is too small.
Some might say that getting a pair of $20-dollar sweatpants tailored is a bridge too far, but to that I answer with these high-waisted-tapered-with-just-the-right-ankle-graze streetwear superstars. The real tell? Despite fabric being taken out of the back seam and inner thigh, the pockets are still in the correct place and the stripes sit just as Mr. Adidas designed them.
With a tailor by your side, anything is possible (sartorially speaking).
This top and skirt was once a dress, a boho number I picked up on my first trip to LA like the big cliché I am. As a whole, it’s very virginal/ bridal, so I decided to see if we could divide it into two. Voilá! Another successful collab. A frothy top and skirt that can be worn together or separately, as my levels of whimsy dictate. He even created a lining to protect my modesty AND added a frill to the top.
One of the best things about getting stuff tailored is that I consume less. Vintage shopping becomes infinitely easier knowing there’s a guy at the other end of it ready to whip my thrifty finds into shape. A good cut has the power to revolutionize a cheap outfit and makes me more inclined to espouse a make-do-and-mend attitude to current wardrobe items.
If you don’t have a tailor and aren’t sure where to start, ask around for friends’ recommendations, and don’t be afraid of a little trial and error. Cost-wise, it’s not as expensive as you’d think (especially when you’re getting zero use out of something otherwise). What’s more, the anticipation and the eventual reward make for a wholly satisfying endeavor—a slow-burn process of seeing sartorial dreams come to life; not to mention ones made especially for you.